Nov. 09, 2011

Student research highlighted in conference presentations

Michaela Walsh

Michaela Walsh '13 has been researching short-term memory and how it works with Associate Professor of Psychology Kenneth Kallio. She is one of eight Geneseo students who presented research in various disciplines Oct. 29 and 30 at the Council of Liberal Arts Colleges Northeast Undergraduate Research Conference. /PHOTO BY KRIS DREESSEN




How wide, or limited, is our capacity to retain information in our short-term memory?

Michaela Walsh '13 has been examining this question with Kenneth Kallio, associate professor of psychology, as well as how we process audio and visual stimuli in our short-term memories. The study, says Walsh, builds on and complements her minor in cognitive science, and feeds her own interest in how the human brain works.

"I find this research to be fascinating, in the way that it seems to account for fundamental aspects of our everyday experiences that are often overlooked," she says. "We aren't typically aware of the way our short-term memories operate, except maybe when they don't function exactly as we'd like."

Geneseo is highly respected for undergraduate research and opportunities students like Walsh have to conduct high-level research.

COPLAC logoShe is one of eight Geneseo students who presented their research Oct. 29 and 30 in various fields of discipline at the Council of Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) Northeast Undergraduate Research Conference in New Hampshire.

Keene State College in Keene, N.H., hosted the conference, where 150 students from six colleges featured their research in the humanities, arts, social sciences and natural sciences. Students discussed their work with other presenters and faculty in their discipline from other COPLAC colleges. It was the largest-ever gathering of undergraduate researchers at a COPLAC sponsored conference.

"Undergraduate research is a hallmark at Geneseo that carries innumerable benefits for our students," says Geneseo Provost Carol Long. COPLAC is an important opportunity, she says, for students to present their research and engage in dialogue with fellow scholars for further understanding of their discipline.

Gabrielle Thomas '12 chose a topic that touches everyone's everyday life — high-fructose corn syrup. As part of her research, she assessed how the syrup is portrayed in the media, examined the Corn Refiners Association campaign about the syrup, and included tests she designed and ran. Those included taste tests that examine perceptions of sweetness and what foods may be healthy, in addition to other factors.

Thomas and Walsh say presenting their work provided them with valuable skills.Walsh says the experience required her to figure out ways to explain her research to people who may not have any background in the field. The biggest obstacle, says Thomas, is the amount of research, reading and planning that went into her paper, and condensing into a 12-minute presentation of highlights.

"I have become a more confident public speaker," says Thomas.

Geneseo students presenting at the conference include:

  • Daniel Bailey '12, history major, "Compromising on Compromises: The Failure of the Rochester City School District to Desegregate." Faculty mentor: Emilye Crosby, professor of history.
  • Paul Fallot '12, history major, "The Secret History of the Mongols and the Mongolian Historical Perspective." Faculty mentor: Margaret Stolee, assistant professor of history.
  • Marissa Fariello '12, English literature and French major, "Surrealism's Empowerment of Women: Sexuality and Madness in André Breton's Nadja." Faculty mentor: Beverly J. Evans, associate professor of languages and literatures.
  • Kaitlyn Gayvert '12, mathematics major, "Computational Efficiencies of Stochastic Algorithms." Faculty mentors: H.T. Banks, Shuhua Hu and Alana Thompson from North Carolina State University and Michelle Joyner from East Tennessee State University.
  • Paul Muniz '13, sociology major, "Should We House the Homeless?" Faculty mentors: Paul McLaughlin, lecturer in sociology and Anne Eisenberg, associate professor of sociology.
  • Gabrielle Thomas '12, communication major, "High-Fructose Corn Syrup: America's Dangerously Sweet Obsession." Faculty mentor: Atsushi Tajima, assistant professor of communication.
  • Michaela Walsh '13, psychology and sociology major, "Testing the Capacity of Short-Term memory for Multiple Stimulus Attributes of a Series of Visually Displayed Items." Faculty mentor: Kenneth Kallio, associate professor of psychology.
  • Shana Wierchowski' 12, senior anthropology major with a pre-med concentration, "Vocalization Patterns in Mantled Howler Monkeys." Faculty mentor: Barbara Welker, assistant professor of anthropology.